Along the unassuming bankside of the Thames in the Borough of Tower Hamlets lies Trinity Buoy Wharf, a charming and innovative site dating back to the Georgian era that will host two Totally Thames events this September including Trinity Buoy Wharf Tour on Tuesday 6 September and 5X15: On The Docks - Stories From the River on Thursday 15 September.
Read below to discover five things about Trinity Buoy Wharf that will make you want to zoom down there as soon as possible and see it for yourself…
1. The site dates back to 1803
Originally a voluntary association, the Corporation of Trinity House has been responsible for various ‘signs of the sea’, including beacons, buoys, lighthouses and lightships, since 1573. Trinity Buoy Wharf was established as its Thames-side workshop in 1803. Throughout the 20th Century, the Wharf was a busy engineering establishment, testing and repairing iron buoys, some of which can be seen along the quayside.
Trinity House still exists today but the Trinity Wharf site closed in 1988. It was purchased by the London Docklands Development Corporation and fell into disrepair. The site was obtained by Urban Space Management in 1998, and has since been developed into a thriving centre for the arts and creative industries.
2. It’s home to London’s only lighthouse
The iconic Experimental Lighthouse was built in 1864 by James Douglass, used as a testing place for lighting equipment and for training lighthouse keepers. For a time, there were two lighthouses at Trinity Buoy Wharf, but the smaller lighthouse, built in 1854, was demolished in the 1920s.
The remaining lighthouse was used for experiments by Michael Faraday, best known for discovering electromagnetic induction in 1831.
3. It will outlive us all through a 1000 year long composition
Today, the Experimental Lighthouse is home to Longplayer, developed by The Pogues’ Jem Finer: a one thousand year long musical composition that began playing at midnight on 31 December 1999, and will continue without repetition until last second of 2999.
Longplayer is based on one 20 minute and 20 second long piece of existing music composed by Jem Finer, using Tibeten singing bowls. This piece is processed by a computer using a simple algorithm that gives a large number of variations, to be played consecutively. The mechanism is designed to be self-sustainable, adapting to unforeseeable changes in its technology and social environment.
4.Two Wharf residents built a houseboat entirely from recycled cardboard
Probably the cheapest houseboat you’ll find on the Thames, in April this year Harry Dwyer and Charlie Waller brought their dream of a houseboat made entirely from recycled cardboard to reality. Best of all, the boat - made from 300 old boxes found in bins near their workshop in Trinity Buoy Wharf – floated without incident! The boat was launched into the Thames at the Wharf and floated down to the ExCeL centre to be presented at the Grand Designs show, complete with cardboard wine rack.
5. The Wharf is the birthplace of Container City
Container City is a pioneering design model involving a network of studios created from recycled shipping containers, used for living and working. This model is increasingly popular as a stylish yet low-cost and eco-friendly building design. Following the success of the prototype models built in Trinity Buoy Wharf in 2000 and 2002, these ground-breaking designs have begun to spread throughout the UK.
The Wharf is home to the largest and most recent Container City structure, ‘The Riverside Building’, made from 73 containers.
- Come and explore Trinity Buoy Wharf yourself on Tuesday 6 September at the Trinity Buoy Wharf Tour.
- Trinity Buoy Wharf will also host On the Docks: 5x15 and Totally Thames present Stories from the River on Thursday 15 September, beginning with a boat-trip along the Thames, so you can discover the site from river and land.